One play does not decide a classic battle.
But one will certainly stand out as a highlight-reel memory in Sandburg’s 25-23, 24-26, 27-25 victory Thursday over host Lincoln-Way East that clinched for the Eagles the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue title.
It happened just after Sandburg had rallied from a 24-21 deficit in Set 3, a block by Leah Lane tying the score at 24-24.
A spike by East’s Jessica Lindsey appeared about to go down for a kill, but Sandburg libero Kelly McGovern made a one-handed save to keep the ball alive. From there, the ball floated beyond the backline where teammate Bridget Lebert, her back to the net, sent an over-the-head 32-foot rainbow over the net that East was unable to return.
East tied the match again at 25-25 on a kill by Lindsey, but Sandburg scored the final two points on back-to-back kills by Kelly Finlay.
Lane led the way for the Eagles (27-7, 6-0) with 16 kills. Lebert added 11 kills, Finlay nine and Julia Borschel eight, while McGovern finished with 23 digs, Alyssa Kijewski 11 digs and Sami Knight 38 assists and nine digs.
For East (20-14, 4-2) Lindsey had 25 kills and 10 digs, Macie Lawrence 14 digs and four aces, Taylor Nirchi 36 assists and 10 digs and Becca Lilley six kills and five digs.
Lindsey’s kill total for East broke the school record previously set by Kathryn Langheld (22 in 2002).
As for the play on Lindsey’s well-hit spike…
“We’re all confident in each other,” McGovern said. “I made the save, but I knew she was confident enough to put it over.”
An over-the-head return isn’t that uncommon, but the distance that Lebert covered was astonishing.
“Honestly, when I looked back I really didn’t think it went over,” Lebert said. “I don’t even know how I did that, to be honest. I just swung my hardest.”
Finlay’s match-winning kills were on a one-handed punch on a ball floating at the net and a jam-down on a quick set from Knight.
“They put up a really nice block,” Finlay said. “It was really had to hit around. But on the last one I told Sami to try to get me the ball. She did. She had confidence. And it worked.”
It brought to an end a battle that saw Sandburg win Set 1 by scoring the final two points on a kill by Lane that caught tape on the way down, and an East error.
In Set 2, Sandburg appeared in total command at 14-6, only to have the Griffins roar back with an 11-2 run. It was tied at 24-24 when Lindsey put down a kill from the back row for a sideout, rotated to the front row, and bashed down the set winner off of a Sandburg blocker.
East led the third set by as much as 18-13, but couldn’t convert on three match points.
“We worked really hard and kept fighting,” Lindsey said. “When we came back and won that second (set) that showed a lot of perseverance with our team. It’s a tough loss, but it was a really good match against a really good team, and I’m glad we had a really good showing against them right before sectionals.”